Venezuela: Conflict Between the Media During Earthquake

The earthquake that awoke Venezuela earlier this week had a wide variety of reactions among bloggers. After all the panic and the worries finally subsided, most of these bloggers shared different strategies to protect and prevent accidents during an earthquake. The importance of alternate media was evident, since mainstream media took too much time to inform or alert.

This natural phenomenon also pointed out the contrast between the role of mainstream media led by the government and the private sector, which also meant a big fight between the government and opposition. While both sides tried to inform and contract each other, most of the warnings and recommendations came from Twitter, instant and text messages.

La tempestad by Héctor Rattia and used with permission. La tempestad by Héctor Rattia and used with permission.

La tempestad by Héctor Rattia and used with permission. La tempestad by Héctor Rattia and used with permission.

In the end, the earthquake was the starting point of new discussions, demands, reflections, and also humorous expressions, which is something that has never been absent in any of this country’s events in the Venezuelan blogosphere.

Luis Enrique Blanco, in his blog La Conciencia Ciudadana [es] points out the great importance of alternate media in this kind of crisis:

… A las 5:00 a.m. yo, un pendejo cualquiera, estaba claro de que había ocurrido 15 minutos antes en la República. Bueno, El ministro El Aissami a las 5:30 a.m. conjuntamente con el Alcalde Jorge Rodríguez, casi una hora después, estaban esperando que FUNVISIS les confirmara el informe del sismo pero en su lugar se dedicaron a desacreditar la información que suministraba GLOBOVISION la cual esencialmente era la misma que yo había recibido de manera bien informal.

¿Que puede esperar un venezolano cuando los encargados de informar no lo hacen y en cambio se dedican a utilizar momentos importantes de alerta para cantar su canción revolucionaria? (…) No conformes con la metida de pata que los voceros del Gobierno Central habían ya protagonizado, casi prohibían faltar a clases alegando que, no existía peligro de réplica y esta se suscitó a las 10:30 a.m., afortunadamente sin hechos que lamentar.

En fin, como el título dice, este round lo ganaron Twitter, Facebook y Messenger Live

At 5:00 a.m., I, just another idiot, had a clear idea of what was going on 15 minutes before in our Republic. Well, the Minister, along with the Mayor, almost an hour later, were waiting for FUNVISIS (Venezuelan Seismic Investigation Foundation) to confirm the report of the earthquake and, in the meantime, they devoted themselves to discredit the information given by Globovision (a private channel network), which was, essentially, the same information I received in a very informal way.

What can a Venezuelan hope for when people in charge of information don’t inform, but take moments of high alert to sing their revolutionary song? (…) Also, the government’s spokesman, not content enough with their faux pas, almost forbade missing class for this reason, saying that there was no danger of aftershocks… and there was one at 10:30 a.m., but nothing happened to anybody, fortunately.

In the end, this round was won by Twitter, Facebook and Messenger Live.

Daniel of Venezuela News and Views also writes about how this earthquake moved the government’s point of balance more than it did to the earth itself in his post Globovision Shakes Chavismo Early this Morning:

There was a rather strong quake early this morning close to Caracas. Even in San Felipe I felt it enough to wake up. Fortunately it was very brief and thus no major damages reported or loss of life. But apparently there was a lot of loss of pride among chavismo.

See, Globovision the 24 hours news channel did its work: they had staff at hand, they started inquiring, but no one was around to tell them what was happening. VTV was RE-transmitting the Chavez Sunday show, Alo Presidente. God forbid the wisdom words of the beloved leader would be interrupted to tell the audience that there had just been an earthquake. Besides they already knew about it: did they not feel it?

Globovision then tried the next logical step, to ask the Venezuelan seismological thing, FUNVISIS. Nobody was attending. So Globovision went to a US specific site where indeed they found the quake, its magnitude and its epicenter.

Well, that was apparently too much for chavismo who even sent the education minister, silly sycophantic and ineffectual Navarro, to blast Globovision as destabilizing the country with alarming news and showing that they suffered of “psychotic dissociation”, not realizing of course that he was presenting himself as a poster boy for the disease in that speech

Naky Soto in her blog Zaperoqueando [es] also wrote some thoughts about the little battle among different sources of information and what would happen if the effects of the earthquake had been more serious:

Es insólito que una circunstancia como esta también sirva para la diatriba política. Ravell comunica lo del temblor sobre la base de la falta de información “oficial”. Perfecta plataforma para que todos los medios, periodistas, voceros y ministros (oficiales, claro está) le brindaran mayor importancia este señor que a la necesidad de información que requería la gente antes de salir de sus casas.

La ministra Eckhout (rindió declaraciones ilógicas) sobre el poder de la naturaleza y su necesidad de venganza por los daños que la humanidad le ha hecho avalados por el capitalismo, alejándonos de la sabiduría de nuestros ancestros indígenas.

It is incredible that something like this can also be good for political fights. Ravell communicates about the earthquake and the lack of “official” information; a perfect starting point for all the media, journalists, spokesmen and ministers (from the government, of course) could give more importance to the information that people needed before they leave their homes.

Minister Eckhout (gave some illogical declarations about) nature’s power and its need for revenge because of all the damages made by humanity with the help of capitalism, which distances ourselves from our indigenous ancestors’ wisdom.

The occasion also opened the way to jokes and other impressions, something very much in touch with the Venezuelan character, which uses humour as one of the sharpest ways to point out what is going on around almost any event.

In El Espejo del Venezolano [es], (The Venezuelan Mirror) there are some of people’s impressions on the earthquake:

Ya en el transcurso de la mañana se escuchaban los relatos de cada quien. Hubo un par de historias que me parecieron interesantes. Otro pana, quien pasó una “agitada” noche junto a su novia, no entendió que esos temblores no habían sido causados por él hasta que vio las noticias (suele pasar). Otros dicen que fue la gripe porcina que aterrizó en Venezuela, mientras que algunos argumentan que fue obra del imperio.

During the morning we could hear some of people’s stories. There were a couple of them that seemed interesting to me. A friend of mine, who passed a very “agitated” night with his girlfriend, didn’t find out until the next morning, when he saw the news, that those shakes were not caused by him, but by the earthquake (that happens). Some others say that it was the swine flu that landed on Venezuela, while some others stand that it was the work of the Empire.

El chiguire bipolar [es] (The bipolar capybara), a very popular blog based on humour and politics, published this picture of Francisco Garces, the spokesman of the FUNVISIS saying, “Garces admits he has not learned yet how to handle the new seismometer”

Screenshot by El Chigüire Bipolar and used with permission

Screenshot by El Chigüire Bipolar and used with permission

Finally, bloggers think that the most important thing is that there are not enough ways to avoid all the terrible consequences that could come with a hard hit from nature; an idea well summarized by Soto [es]:

Lo más grave es que si llegase a ocurrir un verdadero sismo, nuestras debilidades están más que probadas, tenemos fallas considerables en infraestructura que no necesitan de enfrentamientos de opositores o defensas revolucionarias, antes bien, ojala comencemos a prestarle atención a las recomendaciones que durante años han realizado la gente de Protección Civil (otrora Defensa) los bomberos y hasta la Cruz Roja con sus equipos de rescatistas. Pareciera que a 10 años de la tragedia de Vargas-Miranda, la lección sobre la prevención no está asimilada.

The worst part is that if a real earthquake happens, our weaknesses would be more than obvious. We have a notable lack of infrastructure that does not need any disputes coming from the opposition or revolutionary defenses. I hope we can begin to pay attention to all the recommendations given by Civil Protection, the firemen and the Red Cross for years now. It seems that 10 years after the Vargas-Miranda tragedy, the lesson on prevention has not been learned properly.


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